It certainly would be a difficult decision for Colin Kaepernick to make. Yet if he comes to the realization that his platform of advocacy is now stronger than ever, attempting a return to the NFL might be unwise.
Kaepernick has been a leader in the fight for social justice by people of color not just in the football world or the sports world. Recent developments have raised his profile and, more significantly, reminded many of the sacrifices he has made while protesting social injustice and police brutality.
His peaceful demonstrations of kneeling during the national anthem were misconstrued by many as being un-American, with people misinterpreting them as protests against the flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” While becoming a standard bearer — even a hero — for those facing such oppression, he became a pariah to NFL team owners. It has cost him three years of his football playing career. Prime years.
Yes, Kaepernick reached a settlement with the NFL in a collusion case, a clear indication he was blackballed by teams beginning in 2017. Does the money gained in that settlement serve as a fair replacement for what he might have achieved on the field?
That’s difficult to tell considering Kaepernick struggled in his final NFL season, and his future as an NFL quarterback was uncertain.
Recent societal events, including the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, appear to be leading to major changes on the sports front. The kind of changes Kaepernick sought four years ago when he began kneeling.
Whether Kaepernick has thought about giving up the quest to return to pro football is impossible to know unless he speaks out about it. But he probably should be considering it.
“With the recent race-relations issues, it would seem that more than ever Colin Kaepernick has gained credibility and/or sympathy,” says Dave Torromeo, executive director of the sport business management master’s program at Manhattanville College in New York and a close observer of sports trends. “It would seem his best move now would be to continue his activism and help lead the way to significant and everlasting change in this country.
“However, he no longer needs the pulpit of the NFL. His mark has been made, and we will see kneeling for the foreseeable future in that league, and probably many others, that the league will no longer challenge.”
Kaepernick should consider the impact of a failed or simply mediocre return to an NFL roster. Should he sign with a team and then not make the roster, his opponents surely would seize on that, likely claiming he never deserved the attention he drew. That would be a serious step back for the very worthy causes he espouses.
Even in a backup role, the same scenario could occur. Only solid success in a comeback would enhance Kaepernick’s status. At this point, such success is almost akin to a Hail Mary.
There are few starting jobs even remotely in doubt, and even those questionable starters (Mitchell Trubisky, Tyrod Taylor, Jarrett Stidham) already have veteran or highly drafted competition for their positions.
“A return to a league where his skill sets and quarterback rating have diminished year after year, a league that he has been out of for four years, the soon to be 33-year-old Kaepernick no longer needs to be put in that spotlight, although he has not had the opportunity to do so,” Torromeo adds. “The NFL spot of backup quarterback seems to be his best scenario, and even that is a long shot, as a backup does not seem to be what he is interested in pursuing.
“Given those factors, and the fact that Cam Newton and several other quarterbacks who played last season are available, one would think the NFL doors are closed. It is time for him to move on and utilize his activism skills to help facilitate the change that he feels he sacrificed his NFL career for.”
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